Crappy jobs

One summer when I was in college I found myself without gainful employment. I had spent many other summers as a camp counselor but I had decided not to spend 8 weeks locked in a bunk with a slew of six-year-olds and hadn’t really found anything to do that didn’t require an investment of cash (like an ice cream truck route). All the “good” jobs were taken, and while a buddy and I were offering our services out to paint houses, I really needed to do something to generate cash. That’s how I ended up with a crappy job for which I am still thankful.

My crappy job involved going door to door selling encyclopedias. I’m not kidding. For the younger readers out there, printed encyclopedias were pretty popular (think analog Wikipedia) nearly half a century ago. Every day I would drive my car into some neighborhood and walk the streets knocking on doors. The case I carried was not light, even to my younger, in-shape self. I got rejected nearly every time, at least when someone was nice enough to actually open the door, hear my spiel, and not threaten me with a dog. I also made a few bucks in the process, but calling it a crappy job is an understatement.

I learned a tremendous amount from my crappy job. First and foremost, I learned patience and what is commonly called sticktoitiveness.  I didn’t quit; well, at least not until my painting partner convinced someone to let us paint their house, which was 8 weeks into the summer.  I learned cold-calling and how to qualify leads.  I learned not to fear speaking to strangers. I learned that, just as is baseball, it’s possible to fail 6 times out of 10 and still be an all-star. Most importantly, I gained perspective.  Nearly any other job seemed great by comparison, and I could mentally return to knocking on doors any time things got bad at some subsequent job.

Many years later, “tell me about the worst job you ever had” became one of my standard interview questions.  I looked for people who had a crappy job at some point and we always talked about why it sucked and what they learned. I always leaned toward candidates who had done the worst jobs.

What crappy job have you had? How did it change you?

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Filed under Growing up, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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